Preservation of crossmodal selective attention in healthy aging

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Sep;198(2-3):273-85. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1816-3. Epub 2009 Apr 29.


The goal of the present study was to determine if older adults benefited from attention to a specific sensory modality in a voluntary attention task and evidenced changes in voluntary or involuntary attention when compared to younger adults. Suppressing and enhancing effects of voluntary attention were assessed using two cued forced-choice tasks, one that asked participants to localize and one that asked them to categorize visual and auditory targets. Involuntary attention was assessed using the same tasks, but with no attentional cues. The effects of attention were evaluated using traditional comparisons of means and Cox proportional hazards models. All analyses showed that older adults benefited behaviorally from selective attention in both visual and auditory conditions, including robust suppressive effects of attention. Of note, the performance of the older adults was commensurate with that of younger adults in almost all analyses, suggesting that older adults can successfully engage crossmodal attention processes. Thus, age-related increases in distractibility across sensory modalities are likely due to mechanisms other than deficits in attentional processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Perception*